Defining the Maghreb has become even more important since the Arab Spring.
Characterising this new socio-cultural space is a matter of urgency in light of the social, political and national activities witnessed in the region.
It is no longer possible to attach a single ethnicity to the Greater Maghreb. It is also no longer possible for political and cultural decision-makers to marginalise a population or ignore its specificity.
This matter is important because Maghreb countries are multi-ethnic and multi-cultural.
Whether citizens are Arab, Amazigh, Fulani, Pular, Sonninke, Mandinka, Bambara or countless other tribes, social components live together.
Any real measure of the success of Maghreb unity must therefore consider the region’s ethnic minorities.
“I am a fan of the Arab Maghreb Union if it guarantees freedom of movement, and also achieves sustainable development and free trade. Yet it should in return respect the rights of cultural minorities and grant their leaders freedom of political expression, and also benefit from their economic potential,” said Jibril Diallo, one of the most prominent defenders of the Fulani ethnic group in Mauritania.
The definition of the Arab Maghreb Union and the Greater Maghreb has not yet been achieved, he said, because before the Arab Spring, it was not a priority for the region’s governments " to care for their people, economically, socially and culturally."
“I have no objection to Maghreb unity if it guarantees the economic welfare of the peoples of the Maghreb,” said journalist Hammat Diallo, a Pular. “My objection is about trying to integrate the cultural identity of non-Arab ethnic minorities into the Greater Maghreb.”
“I do not want this to be understood as indicating that I am against the unity of the Maghreb; I simply want respect for the cultural identity of each nation,” he said.
It is urgent to find a formula for Maghreb unity in order to be a powerful economic bloc.
That is the sole guarantor for each ethnic group and its continued existence.